Flex Appeal

By Anna Sachse

Posted August 6, 2009 in Mind Body Spirit

Apparently every sport wants to be BFFs with Pilates. For example, “Piloxing,” a combination of Pilates and boxing “invented” by Swedish-born Viveca Jensen, a dancer, bodybuilder, aerobics instructor and trained boxer who now resides in Burbank and tweaks the physiques of Vanessa Hudgens and Hilary Duff. (Somehow I am not surprised that we don’t hear about Bradley Cooper or Ryan Reynolds “Piloxing.”) There is also Cyclates, a combination of Pilates and spinning, and Pilates on an exercise ball, Pilates with fitness bands, Pilates with tango dancing and Pilates in the pool. 


What is it about this form of exercise created by Joseph Pilates in the early 1900s that makes it so darn appealing to merge with other forms of exercise? Part of it is the body/mind/spirit approach to movement, based on principles like centering, concentration, control, precision, breath and flow. It seems logical that focusing on these principles would help you with anything, from exercise to public speaking. In addition, many of the movements are geared toward strengthening your torso, specifically your “core.” A strong core is key to performing well in any sport. And it also means rock-hard abs.


It appears that pretty much any activity can and is merged with Pilates, but one of the most common is yoga i.e. Piloga or “Yogalates” (a term trademarked by an Australian woman named Louise Solomon nearly two decades ago). This isn’t surprising when you consider that yoga and Pilates are a lot alike—both have a “wholistic” thing going on, and both include achieving specific postures, promote the development of long, lean muscles and are relatively easy for most people to do. 


That said, Pilates and yoga are distinct disciplines, so is merging them like getting twice the workout? Or is it just a bunch of hybrid hype?


The answer is somewhat . . . flexible.


On the one hand, it’s pretty clear that Pilates and yoga complement each other. The core strength developed via Pilates provides the stability that yoga practitioners need to control and expand their yoga poses safely. And all that stretching you get in yoga allows for a larger range of motion in your Pilates practice.


But while most experts seem to agree that it is good for you to practice both yoga and Pilates, there is a fair amount of fiery disagreement on whether or not you should do them at the same time. One of the major concerns is that you might end up with a watered-down version of both practices i.e. you are getting just a little yoga and just a little Pilates, and probably only a limited variety of exercises because you need the ones that can flow into each other. Furthermore, it takes a lot of time, effort and money to become certified in either yoga or Pilates, so chances are your instructor may not have enough training in one of them.


But, people—this is not like mixing heroin and cocaine. Maybe Yogalates won’t help you lose weight or get you super fit super fast, but it won’t kill you. And maybe it will work for you—beginners might like the two-for-one introduction to exercise, and regular fitness freaks might get something out of changing up their normal routine. 


Newbies should first try taking a basic yoga class and a basic Pilates class so that they are familiar with the different principles. Then, if you opt to take a Yogalates class, you’ll know for yourself if you are getting as much out of it as you can. Second, find an instructor who is trained in both disciplines and test out a class or two before signing on for a series. If you can’t find one, try an at-home DVD. 


Namaste, ya’ll.


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